Governor Rick Scott has approved a measure reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system. He signed the bill into law on the same day he bid farewell to the outgoing Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary and named her temporary replacement.
Before presenting her with a resolution during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Scott said a few words about Wansley Walters, his state Department head of Juvenile Justice, who’s slated to end her role in a few weeks.
“So, Wansley has served the state of Florida for 35 years when she was like two,” Scott said to laughter. “Most recently as Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, throughout her service, she’s helped many of Florida’s at-risk and delinquent children and their families. While at DJJ, she led the agency in innovative juvenile justice reform efforts, which resulted in significant declines in all major categories of juvenile delinquency.”
And, Walters appeared surprised.
“I am in shock…I thought this was a little strange…But, my gosh, this is such an honor, and it’s been a great three and half years here, and I’m very grateful for everything, Governor, that you have done to allow us to change this system because I absolutely believe that this system is a better system today than it used to be and it’s getting better every single day, and it’s not going to stop,” said Walters.
Later that day, a DJJ spokeswoman said the Governor signed a measure into law that is a huge priority for Walters to further surprise her at an agency heads meeting.
It seeks to rewrite Florida’s law governing the juvenile justice system and build upon reforms enacted by Secretary Walters. That includes placing more of a focus on preventing youth from going deeper into the juvenile justice system.
And, in an earlier interview with WFSU, Walters says the new law will reflect what her agency has been doing to make it a better system.
“And, I don’t even think it’s the end of the reforms or the end of the updating of the laws. I think it really represents the beginning because we now have people thinking of taking it to additional levels and looking at different other parts of the system that maybe didn’t make it into the first draft,” said Walters.
Walters’ last day is June 30th. Scott also named current DJJ Deputy Secretary Christy Daly as the new interim Secretary, following Walters’ retirement.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.